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Reviewed by Jack Magnus for Readers' Favorite
"Surly Bonds" by Michael Byars Lewis is the story of Jason Conrad and his fellow Lieutenants Matt, Vince and Lenny as they train to become fighter pilots. The story takes place at the Vance Air Force Base in Enid, Oklahoma. Jason seems to be struggling to keep up with the studies and flight tests. He also has some romantic entanglements that serve as unwanted distractions. His ex-wife is pestering him and reopening the wounds caused by her infidelities, and an attractive local woman, Kathy, seems like the real deal.
Lewis has crafted an intriguing and suspenseful thriller that also gives the reader a birds-eye view of life as a pilot-in-training. I particularly enjoyed the vicarious experience of walking around the plane with Jason under the eagle eye of his instructor and going for the flight sessions. There are two plots in it: after we get to know Jason and his classmates, a second story starts to form on the other side of the world in Russia, and Lewis deftly moves the action along in both plots. Jason is a compelling character. He works hard for his grades and has a strong sense of loyalty to his friends, even the ones who seem to have a much easier time with their coursework than he does. It is interesting to see how he copes with problems and critical situations and gets stronger as he goes along. This is a suspenseful and well-crafted thriller that delivers, and I enjoyed every minute spent reading it.